When I was going through high school (and well beyond) I always wondered why there was no fiction out there about people beyond adolescence but not really at adulthood yet. I wanted to read stories about college aged characters and with a few rare exceptions, it seemed this didn’t exist. I think part of what I wanted was–apart from wanting stories about the age that I was at the time–stories that were more mature than the YA available at the time but not necessarily dealing with adults in their mid-20s to late-30s which were a little harder to relate to. Given that I am now 30, that’s less an issue now, but I still feel that this is kind of a hole in the oeuvre so to speak.
So yesterday I came across a post on Twitter talking about Postadolescent or “New Adult” fiction. Hooray! There’s a TERM for the thing that I want! And while the author notes a lack of books in this category, it DOES apparently exist. Woo!
She mentions that you have these books that are about teenagers but are marketed as adult and then you have books that have characters over 18 that are marketed as YA and postulates on the difference.
One characteristic of adult literature is perspective. With the passing of childhood innocence comes experience, and with experience comes insight. With his/her adolescent years behind him/her, an adult can look back and see “what was then and what is now”.
This often comes down to voice. There is a YA voice and an adult one, and even if stories overlap, the adult voice has a sense of scope. What makes YA compelling as a read is its immediacy; a young person cannot write of him/herself from any perspective aside from “now” and “later”. With a YA voice, the past is less present, the present looms like a storm, and the future ever just out of reach. With an adult voice, there is a sense that the future has come to pass, the past is present, and the present encompasses all that has been and all that will be.
I thought this was interesting, even if I’m not sure I entirely understand or agree with the difference. I haven’t read either of the examples she references, so I’m not sure I totally get how she’s differentiating. I don’t know that I have actually read anything in the YA genre that was marketed for adults, though many of the books I’ve read have wide appeal to adult readers.
The difference, for me, is the maturity of the characters. I can’t tolerate immature characters. I can’t tolerate immature PEOPLE in real life (and couldn’t even when I was allegedly one of them), so that’s probably why. A lot of the YA I didn’t care for had really immature heroines. Bella from the Twilight series. Ever from Evermore. There was lots of emo thoughtologue that bored the crap out of me and absolutely no perspective or insight. It’s the kind of thing that kept making me wonder what in the heck the immortal heroes saw in them because I wanted to b*tch slap them for being stupid.
While they, from time to time, act immature, I don’t see the characters in The Mortal Instruments as being immature. Same with anything by Maggie Stiefvater or the Strange Angels series by Lili St. Crow. These characters feel generally more mature to me. In some cases it’s that they have bigger, more adult problems to deal with. In some it’s that they make better, more adult decisions. I don’t know. In general I just find them not annoying (and love them). So maybe that’s often what it comes down to for me immature/annoying vs. mature/not-annoying. Gee, how scientific.
Anyway, it’s something that’s of interest to me because a lot of the YA I plan to write is sort of in that bridge territory of postadolescence.
Q4U: What are your thoughts on the difference between the two?